What is the difference between a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) and a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) in HubSpot?

The short answer: An MQL is a good lead that we want to keep engaged through marketing activities, but is not quite ready to be contacted by a sales rep. An SQL is a highly engaged lead ready to be handed over to sales.

The slightly longer answer

HubSpot has seven default Lifecycle Stages used to define the current relationship we have with our Contacts. These stages cannot be customized, but we are free to set whatever criteria we like to define when someone moves from one Lifecycle Stage to the other. The default stage for a new Contact is determined by how they were created: 

A Contact who has opted in to hear more from you by signing up for your blog or newsletter.

A Contact who has submitted a form on your website or created through some other interaction with your organization beyond a subscription sign-up, e.g. created manually in the HubSpot UI, an email integration, a chat conversation or an import.

Marketing Qualified Lead 
Defined by your Marketing and Sales teams. Updated manually or through workflows.

Sales Qualified Lead
Defined by your Marketing and Sales teams. Updated manually or through workflows.

A Contact who is associated with a Deal in any of your Sales Pipelines.

A Contact with at least one closed-won Deal.

A customer who has advocated for your organization. Updated manually or through workflows.

A wildcard stage that can be used when a Contact does not fit any of the above stages. Normally we use this stage for Contacts that we don't want to engage in sales conversations, such as employees, partners, competitors, liquidated organisations or spam/scam.

Defining MQL and SQL

If you Google Marketing Qualified Lead you will find a number of different opinions on how they are best defined. Even though the criteria can change slightly depending on your business, we find the following definitions to work well for our clients.

Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)

A Marketing Qualified Lead is like a normal Lead but a really good one. Normally they would have converted on a more top-of-the-funnel marketing campaign, such as an e-book offer, signed up for a webinar, an event, a quiz or something similar. The idea is that these Leads will be further engaged through nurture series or eDM campaigns until they eventually are ready to start a sales conversation. 

Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)

A Sales Qualified Lead is a Lead that is highly engaged with your product offering and ready for a reach out from someone in your sales team. Typical triggers would be submissions of sales enquiry forms, scheduled meetings, or callback requests.

Often we use the HubSpot Lead Scoring functionality to trigger SQLs based on the level of engagement of your prospects, e.g. number of visits to key web pages, engagement with marketing content, ads and email and/or engagement with your internal teams and sales collateral.

Engagement led SQLs represent those hot prospects who haven't quite reached out yet but would likely respond if you proactively connected with them - kind of like if you were managing a retail store and someone came in and was looking at your products for a few minutes - you wouldn't wait for them to walk up to the counter, you would approach them and ask if they would like some help.

An Example from Subscriber to Evangelist

I like mountain biking so I come across your blog post How You Learn to Wheelie In 10 Days and it is so good I decide to subscribe to your blog. I am now a Subscriber.

You start sending me blog posts and eventually I download your Guide to the Gnarliest Mountain Bike Trails Around Auckland. I am now a Marketing Qualified Lead.

You enrol me in a nurture series and I soon realize that I probably need a much better bike with really expensive components so I complete the Find The Right Bike For You Calculator and I opt-in for someone to give me a call to talk through my options. I am now a Sales Qualified Lead.

Behind the scenes, this triggers a workflow in HubSpot that routes me to the sales rep responsible for the Auckland region. It assigns her a task to reach out to me and Qualify. She gives me a call, together we build my dream bike, she creates a Deal in the Sales Pipeline and sends me a link to complete the purchase. I am now an Opportunity in HubSpot. 

I click the link, complete the purchase, my Deal is moved to Closed Won in the Sales Pipeline, and I am now a Customer in HubSpot.

I am sent an email asking how I like my new dream bike and the purchasing experience, I respond that I loved it - I am asked to provide a review and provided discount codes to share with my family and friends, once they start buying using this code I am now an Evangelist in HubSpot.

When will you help us define our MQL and SQLs?

Depending on our engagement we will help you with your MQL and SQL triggers and outcomes in the Sales & Marketing Alignment session or the Sales Hub Design session

Please reach out to your Project Manager or Account Manager if you have further questions.